RECOMMENDATIONS AND INSIGHTS FOR AGREED UPON CONCLUSIONS (WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT AND THE LINK TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT), UNCSW60, 2016

The Women’s Intercultural Network submitted the following Caucus Conclusions for consideration in conjunction with the United Nations Committee of the Status of Women annual meeting, which was held in New York, March 14-25, 2016.

The WIN Caucus’ primary comments focus on securing assurances by State Parties, corporations, and other entities to uphold the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and dedicate the necessary resources to ensuring the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls around the world.

Specifically, the WIN Caucus calls on all relevant parties to take note of the following:

  • The rights of girls need to be reiterated throughout the Agreed Conclusions document to underline girls’ unique needs and challenges, such as trafficking, genital mutilation, and the issue of child brides.  Governments must be held responsible for allocation of all necessary funds and resources to strengthen the empowerment of girls in accordance with the provisions of CEDAW, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and all other relevant international law.
  • State Parties and International Organizations, including the United Nations and the Committee on the Status of Women, must ensure that corporations are an integral part of the discussion and implementation of procedures for upholding human rights.  Governments need to ensure corporate accountability for human rights violations in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and should pass all necessary domestic law to ensure such accountability.
    • It shall also be recognized the corporations have a special role in assisting with mitigation and adaption to climate change and work to ensure sustainable development models in line with local populations, specific cultural and economic contexts, and indigenous rights to law and natural resources.
    • Special attention should be paid to the role of extractive industries in considering sustainable development and the protection of the rights and needs of women and girls.
  • State Parties must increase economic, social, political, cultural, technological, and educational resources for marginalized population and strengthen accountability of all member states to develop effective actions and policies to adequately address gender based discrimination.
    • Public-private partnerships have a crucial role to play in providing these resources and states should take all necessary action to ensure their participation.
    • It should be recognized that technology companies have a special role to play in sustainable development and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
  • Women and girls are entitled to access the information necessary to ensure their effective growth and development and protect and promote their rights in equality and dignity. The right of access to information is a fundamental right, as outlined in numerous international treaties, court cases, and policy documents, and is necessary for empowerment and the fulfillment of other rights crucial to the empowerment of women and girls.
  • The WIN Caucus calls on all state and non-state actors such as corporations to defend the human rights defenders within their territory and around the world from abuse, harassment, punishment, torture, and death. We call for a stronger statement by states and the Committee on the Status of Women condemning actions against human rights defenders and a statement of understanding that enhanced protections are going to need to be different in different contexts and cultures.
  • We call on all states to actively work to internalize the founding documents and the resolution that came out of CSW60. Such internalization needs to include legislation, the judiciary, police, and civil society, as well as the education system. All states must work to ensure that at whatever their current level of internalization, they actively work to improve the situation within their own territory, including an emphasis on Art. 5(a) of CEDAW which calls upon states to work to modify culture patterns detrimental to achieving equality and equity.

In closing, sustainable development cannot be achieved without recognizing women’s contribution to the economy and society at large. Women’s Intercultural Network and its partners support UN-Women’s call for countries to step up their efforts and implement effective solutions and strategies and close the global gender gap — by 2030.

Discussed and Drafted by Representatives from:

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute

FemResources

Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network (ICWIN)

UNA Women Greater Kansas City

US Women Connect

Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City

Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN)

Editors: Elahe Amani, Member of ICWIN Steering Committee; Lenka Belkova, Associate Director, WIN; Kathleen Cha, Former Co-Chair, WIN; Dana Zartner,  ‎Associate Professor and Chair, International Studies Department, University of San Francisco

May 2016

 

 

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Women’s Intercultural Network at UN CSW 60, March 2016

Written by Lenka Belkova, WIN Associate Director

In March WIN participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) 60th session in New York with an unprecedented number of NGO accredited delegates. This year’s UN CSW primary theme addressed women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.

Women’s Human Rights and Sustainable Cities with CEDAW and Habitat III panel at NGO CSW FORUM NY, March 15 2016

WIN’s star panel at the Forum “Women’s Human Rights and Sustainable Cities with CEDAW and Habitat III” was moderated by Elmy Bermejo, Region Nine Representative to the US Department of Labor in conversation with distinguished speakers Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of Center for Women’s Global Leadership,  Rutgers University; Araceli Campos, Commissioner, LA Commission on the Status of Women; Lois A. Herman, Editor and Publisher of Women’s United Nations Report Network; Ross Uchimura, CEO, Solariv, Sustainable Smart Village-Nepal; June Zeitlin, Director of Human Rights Policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Soon-Young Yoon, former Chair UN CSW NGO NY and visionary of Cities for CEDAW.

During the panel discussion Krishanti Dharmaraj stressed the importance of policies’ relevance for diverse communities to remain effective. With regard to Cities for CEDAW campaign, LA Commissioner Araceli Campos offered examples from Los Angeles on how a CEDAW ordinance can bring a change fostering fairness and inclusiveness by providing new programs for disadvantaged communities and training city employees to assist in identifying human traffickers. Long time advocate for US CEDAW ratification, June Zeitlin, reminded everyone that passing of CEDAW at the federal level is still as important as implementing it locally. Lois Herman, delivered passionate remarks on CEDAW education and mainstreaming while Ross Uchimura, whose ambitious plan to bring solar panels to Nepal with his company while upholding CEDAW principles, captured audiences attention with applause. Soon Young-Yoon, who paid a short visit to our panel, spoke about Habitat III.

The panel was well received and we hope that it incited even greater interest in the growing movement for local policies reflecting human rights principles.

WIN Co-Sponsored several other panels discussing topics from violence against women, technology for women’s empowerment, CEDAW activism in the USA, women’s entrepreneurship and support for refugee girls.

WIN Caucus at Ms Foundation, Brooklyn, NY

As every year, WIN invited organizations to comment at our annual Caucus on the UN CSW 60 Draft Agreed Conclusions for a collective statement addressed to US government representatives to the UN CSW.  Participating organizations included The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, FemResources, Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network, UNAWomen Greater Kansas City, US Women Connect, Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City and other community leaders from around the country. Our final statement highlighted the importance of

  • recognizing women’s contribution to the economy and society at large.
  • the rights of girls to underline girls’ unique needs and challenges, such as trafficking, genital mutilation, or the prevalent issue of child brides.
  • recognizing the importance of securing data for implementation and action.
  • increasing resources for marginalized population and strengthening accountability of all member states to develop effective actions and policies to adequately address gender based discrimination.
  • corporations that must be part of the discussion and accountability on upholding human rights.
  • the role of technology in empowering women and girls.
  • the right of access to information as a fundamental and universal right, necessary for economic empowerment and the fulfillment of other rights.
  • the right to gender identity as a key human right that must be as such addressed throughout the UN CSW 60th Agreed Conclusions.
MS Foundation

WIN Caucus

Many thanks go to our UN NGO delegates, panel speakers and everyone who engaged with us during UN CSW 60 in giving women and girls a stronger voice.

Farkhundeh – An Explosion of a Deferred Dream in Afghanistan

By Elahe Amani,

Published by:  A Safe World for Women 

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
BY LANGSTON HUGHES 1902–1967

Screen capture of a video showing the murder of Farkhunda by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 19 March 2015. Image source: Wikipedia | ATN NewsATN News

Screen capture of a video showing the murder of Farkhunda by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 19 March 2015. Image source: Wikipedia | ATN NewsATN News

The case of Farkhunda’s brutal killing is now closed. Thousands came to the streets of Kabul and around the world to demand justice for horrendous and vicious crime of misogyny against Farkhunda. The justice system of Afghanistan swiftly prosecuted the civilian and the police and now, we know the result. Forty-nine people were brought to trial. Twenty-seven were found not guilty eighteen civilians and nine police officers. Twelve convictions have been handed down to civilians, eight guilty of violence against women and four sentenced to death for mob killing. Ten police officers have been convicted for their failure in protecting Farkhunda and dereliction of duty after failing to stop the public lynching. The brutal killing of Farkhunda, the height of the anger and violence perpetuated by a group of men in the capital city of Kabul stroked a cord in the heart and mind of Afghan people particularly women and they protested the injustice from Kabul to Hamburg to the Afghan community of Fremont in California.

Was Justice served in the case of Farkhunda? Was this case a “turning point “for women’s rights in Afghanistan? Is it true that the incidences of violence against women are on rise? Was there any political motivation for handling such a publicized case swiftly?
On March 19th two days before the Afghan New Year a 27 –year-old woman, named Farkhunda, was brutally killed by a mob of angry men for allegedly burning a copy of Qur’an in Kabul, the capital City of Afghanistan. The violence sent shock waves to the world as investigations revealed that Farkhunda had not burned Qur’an and in fact she worked as a religious teacher. The intensity of violence that was perpetuated against Farkhunda was shocking.
Farkhunda was beaten to death, then her body was ran over by a car and then burned, all in presence of police officers who did not take any action when she was asking for help with her last breath. This cruel and inhuman incident ignited explosion of the “deferred dream” of Afghan women for security and protection from violence. Afghan women and men came to the streets in Kabul to protest this crime and demand justice.
The investigation revealed that Farkhunda got into an argument in front of the mosque where she worked with a mullah selling charms. The wicked and evil hearted mullah accused Farkhunda to get even with her. According to CBC news on March 22nd, “The mob of men beat 27-year-old Farkhunda before throwing her body off a roof, running over it with a car, setting it on fire and throwing it into a river near a well-known mosque. According to an eyewitness, protesters were chanting anti-American and anti-democracy slogans while beating the woman.”

Farkhunda’s mob killing exploded the anger of Afghan women, human rights community and women activists and raised many questions as the incidences of violence against women is on rise. Most recently on Dec. 30, 2014 Tolo News reported about the rape of a twelve-year-old girl by the Afghan Local Police (ALP) forces in Nijrab district of north-eastern Kapisa. Many other such incidences of violence against women and girls are happening on daily basis, often not event reported.

The global as well as Afghan media captured the sentiments of people and outburst of their anger to what happened to Farkhunda by many news articles, opinion and editorial pieces, press releases and petitions to bring justice to the men who perpetuated this gross violence on Farkhunda. As the story unfolded about the detail of what happened and how it happened and why Farkhunda was murdered by the mob of angry men, it was revealed that Farkhunda was neither mentally ill nor disturbed rather this cover was used initially by the family to hide the shame and dishonored of allegedly burning Quran .
Many women activists were skeptical about the “mental illness” and had an educated guess that since Farkhunda’s behavior was a disgrace and shameful, perhaps, her father said so to save face. Although being mentally ill is also considered shameful in many countries including west and south Asia, it is considered less shameful than blasphemy. Burning Qur’an is considered such as ‘despicable’ crime to a Muslim that most sane persons would not commit this.

On March 22nd, Mirwais Harooni in a report for Reuters wrote: “ Farkhunda was a teacher of Islamic studies, according to her brother, who denied media reports that she had been mentally ill. He said this was a made-up defense by their father, who wanted to protect the family after police told them to leave the city for their own safety.” “My father was frightened and made the false statement to calm people down,’ said Najibullah, who is changing his second name to Farkhunda in memory of his sister.

UN officials in Afghanistan strongly condemned the brutal killing but picked up on the “mental illness” and stated that “We are particularly worried by reports that the woman had suffered from mental illness for many years,” but, later Mark Bowden, acting head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said “The brutal murder of this woman is an unspeakably horrendous act that should result in those responsible being prosecuted, to the fullest extent possible, under Afghan law”.

In the aftermath of this crime, contrary to the Islamic tradition, Farkhunda’s casket was carried by a dozen women to the gravesite in north Kabul’s Khair Khana neighborhood while public outpoured grief and demanded that the perpetrators were brought to justice. Violence against women is major barrier to human rights and dignity and despite the fact that the Elimination of Violence against Women Act (EVAW) was passed in 2009 during the era of Hamid Karzai Ex Afghan President, the rampart violence against women in public and private spheres are a major concern. Indeed Afghan women security and human rights is at a critical juncture.
The Elimination of Violence against Women Act (EVAW) criminalizes twenty two offences, starting from forced prostitution to denying women their inheritance, the law prescribes punishments for offenders and summarize a number of state responsibilities. Most particularly, Article 6 enshrines seven victims’ rights, including the right of prosecution, legal representation and compensation. While the 2009 Act marked a major turning point in the legal status of Afghan women. But, passing a law in the absence of political will to implement it will not curtail the rampart violence against women. Afghanistan is also signatory to numerous international rights treaties and obliged under international law to respond to reports of violence against women. According to UN statistics, out of 650 reported cases between October 2012 and September 2013, the law was applied in a mere 109 cases. On average, over the past three years, the EVAW act has only been applied to between 15 and 17 percent of reported cases.
The Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (AIHRC) in a report published in Dec 2013 stated that “During the first half of the current year, 4154 cases of violence against women have been registered by 1179 complainants referred to different office of the AIHRC. Therefore, 1179 women have suffered from one or other forms of violence against women during the first six months in 1392. Usually the victims are faced with more than one form of violence at the same time. For this reason the number of violations is higher than the number of complainants.
The above-mentioned figure shows about a 25 percent increase in the number of cases of violence against women that were registered in different offices of the AIHRC during the first half of the last year. This figure indicates that the situation of in the country is terrible. The increased number of such cases registered in different offices of the AIHRC can imply several meanings. It may mean a high level of public trust on the Commission or it can be interpreted as weak rule of law and corruption in the justice and judicial system or limited access of women to justice. Anyway, the high level of violence against women indicates an appalling and shocking condition of in the country. “
On 12 November 2014 in the finalized Statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, asked for sustainable measures to address the causes and consequences of violence against women, including at the individual, institutional and structural level.
At the end of a nine-day mission to Kabul, Jalalabad and Herat regions of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan she stated, “I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Violence against women and girls is a widespread and systemic problem that has an impact throughout the lifecycle of women and girls, whether it occurs in the public or private spheres. It precludes the realization of civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and development rights, and is a barrier to the effective exercise of citizenship by women and girls.”
Manjoo’s sentiment is also shared by Rona Popal, Executive Director of the United States based Afghan Coalition. In her interview statements with me she spoke of the brutal killing of Farkhunda. “What happened in Kabul Afghanistan is all due to 35 years of wars in Afghanistan. Wars completely destroyed our religion and culture of Afghanistan. More than 80 % of Afghans have mental problems. They see every day people are being killed in front of them in pieces so people have no feeling toward each other and to their community,” outlined Popal.
Rona’s comment about the decades of war in Afghanistan and the region’s insensitivity to violence is also shared by the UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo. “The four decades of prolonged armed conflict across the country has contributed to significant levels of instability, insecurity, violence, rule of law challenges, and poverty and underdevelopment, which have obstructed the effective realization and enjoyment of human rights for people of Afghanistan. It must be stressed that the insecurity, pervasive levels of gender-based violence and an ever-present climate of fear has had a disproportionate impact on the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights of women and girls,” said the Special Rapporteur.
In response to the question I asked Rona if she is concern about women safety in today’s Afghanistan and why? She responded: “I am very much concern about safety of women in Afghanistan. They are not safe even from their families. I always think they have to be trained how to take care of themselves. “
The fact that most of the young men participated in Farkhunda’s killing were “city boys” reminds us that not only these young men in their twenties but perhaps their fathers lived through the three decade of war. The culture of violence, the unprocessed anger instilled over 3 decades, continues to be passed on to the young generation.
After Farkhunda’s brutal murder, a dozen of men suspected to be involved were arrested and few police officers were removed from their position. Rona believes that “Afghanistan government want to do something to stop people’s anger but they cannot do that much. To change people bring their trust back to government. The government has to bring a system, rules and regulation that be acceptable by people. Also culturally competent sociologists and psychologists need to be at work to heal the psychological effects of the long lasting decades of war of various communities. “
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released its Report on the Taliban’s War Against Women on November 17, 2001. The report concluded “The Afghan people want, and the U.S. Government supports, a broad-based representative government, which includes women, in post-Taliban Afghanistan………… Only Afghans can determine the future government of their country. And Afghan women should have the right to choose their role in that future. “
The report included the transcript of the radio address delivered by first lady Laura Bush and she concluded that because of the military occupation of Afghanistan “women are no longer imprisoned in their homes.“ But this was a premature declaration of victory!
Ending the atrocities of the Taliban and ensuring that women’s rights and freedom are being honored was one of the prime justifications for U.S. intervention. But after 14 years which costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $1tn, the country still lacks the basic infrastructure to protect the safety of women under the rule of law.
“Many activists are concerned that the transition for the withdrawal will increase the incidences of violence against women. Particularly contextualizing the fact that women were pushed to the sideline and neither US not Afghan Governments did not honor Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for presence of women at peace negotiations,” says Sima Samar
Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), told Reuters In January of 2014 that as the withdrawal deadline draws near for international troops, women in tribal areas are less protected, leaving them vulnerable to violent assaults.
“The presence of the international community and provincial reconstruction teams in most of the provinces was giving people confidence,” Samar said. “There were people there trying to protect women. And that is not there anymore, unfortunately.”
She also noted that poor economic conditions and the lack of security are also contributing factor to the rise of incidents.
“Killing women in Afghanistan is an easy thing. There’s no punishment,” Suraya Pakzad, who runs women’s shelters in several provinces, told Reuters.
According to UN Women Chief Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukain January 2014 violence against women in Afghanistan is “pandemic,” with 87.2 percent of women experiencing some form of physical, psychological, sexual, economic or social violence.
In my interview with Rona Popal I asked her in what ways Afghan community outside Afghanistan and other global women activists who care for respect, dignity and safety of Afghan women can help so we don’t have another Farkhunda?
“We need the world to listen to Afghan women. We’ve had a bad experience after 9/11. The world came to help but it backfired on Afghan women: for example women are right not to take the veil off from women. After 9/11 in our trip to Kabul we did talk to lots of women and we asked them why they wear the burqa? They said because of security if these warlords see that I am young or beautiful, they will kidnap me or my daughters. So they can help but they should be sensitive to the people believes. Let the people decide what is good for them, “outlined Popal.
The deferred dream of Afghan women for peace and security in public and private spheres of their lives exploded with the manifestation of deep rooted misogyny in lynching Farkhunda. Many women activists, those who painted their face to resemble the atrocities inflicted on Farkhunda and participated in widespread demonstrations, those who broke the patriarchal traditions of only men carrying the casket and took Farkhunda on their shoulders to the cemetery, the journalists who penned their anger and frustration and demand justice, the community that raised the hope that Farkhunda case be a turning point and the beginning of an end to the deep rooted gender injustice in Afghanistan demanded justice for Farkhunda.
The case is now closed and many activists and Farkhunda’s family are questioning if the justice was served? Faridullah Hussain Khail in an article on Tolo News reported that Kabul Primary Court Judge Safiullah Mujadidi sentences “evoked fierce criticism among some people in Kabul with one MP claiming the judge’s decision had been politically motivated. “ I am very sorry that political compromises have been seen in the court. The Kabul Police chief has close ties with the president and the crime investigation chief has close ties with the CEO,” said Farkhunda Zahra Nadiri MP. Another critic was the mother of Sharaf Baghlani who was sentenced to death. She asked why the driver of the car that ran over Farkhunda and the person who set Farkhunda on fire were not sentenced to death.
While efficiency of court proceedings is a desirable quality, but efficiency should not compromise serving justice to the case and due process for the defendants. It took only less than two months for the judicial system of Afghanistan to arrest, investigate and put on trial 49 men accused of being engaged at different stages of this horrendous crime and handing down sentences from one year to death sentences. The response of the judicial system was prompt as many demanded, but was it thorough? Some argue that it was not and the case was wrapped up quickly for political consideration and in response to the public pressure. Ahmad Shuja, an Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch was quoted in an article published on May 20th in Foreign Policy that “We now see what has become a pattern in highly publicized cases,” he continues “The government tries to expedite the proceedings to put the issue behind it. That not only adversely impacts due process rights but also demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which the government approaches cases of violence against women.”
The view expressed by many human rights activists also indicates that the hearings lasted only three days, and defendants were given few minutes and no opportunity for their defendants to introduce their own witnesses and even more serious fraudulent and misconduct aspect of this trail was that some defendants, including one ultimately sentenced to death, did not had a defense lawyer at trial.
Kimberley Motley, the American attorney who represented the family of Farkhunda, in an article published by The Telegraph on May 20th, stated “There can be little doubt that this case was a defining moment for Afghanistan, women’s rights “. She continues “How it (this case ) has been prosecuted will show the world what Afghanistan is really made of and what the legacy of billions of dollars investment – and a 13 year international intervention that recently came to an end – has resulted in.” The above unfounded optimism assessment of the importance of the case and particularly highlighting the “legacy of billions of dollars investment “ by Kimberley Motley would be better understood in the context of the history of her presence and her legal capacity in Afghanistan. As stated on Motley Legal she “worked as a Justice Advisor with US Department of State funded project in Afghanistan. In this capacity she was given the remit to raise the capacity of Afghan Defense Attorneys and has trained of hundreds of Afghan Attorneys throughout the country.”
The reality is that while many cases of violence against women go unreported or being ignored Farkhunda brutal killing was in public, pressuring Afghan society to confront their brutal realities, especially as it was documented on mobile phones and the footage went viral on social media. Farkhunda lynching “exploded” as the women’s rights activist who endured the bleak years of Taliban, who endured the military occupation of US for the last thirteen years are holding the government of Afghanistan accountable to respect them as equal citizens as reflected in the constitution of Afghanistan that “the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law”. Afghan women are inspired by the global movement to end violence against women and striving to make their deferred dream of peace and security at home and in society a reality.
When I asked Rona Popal about the result of this case she stated: “I am very upset to see all the injustices in everyday life of Afghan women. Abuse of women is part of the culture in Afghanistan. Women are invisible in the society. Women still being discriminated abused and persecuted. There is more work need to be done before we reach equality and respect for women’s rights. The everyday reality of Afghan women is that the political instability pushes back all the reforms. Khaled Hosseini was right when he wrote in his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, “Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.” Afghan women need more support to bring justice.”
The reality is that despite close to fifteen years presence of US military forces in Afghanistan and donor driven projects of “ empowerment “ of women, both the United State and Afghan governments did not kept their promises to Afghan women.
I recall when I was leaving Kabul to return back to U.S. in May 2003. I asked a group of women working in NGOs in Kabul if they have a message for their sisters in U.S. and they said. ‘Elahe, tell them not to forget about us”. Let us stay committed to the cause of safety and security of Afghan women. The global women’s movement needs to listen to Afghan women.

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Elahe-AmaniElahe Amani

Peace activist and WNN – Women News Network special reporter on Iran, Elahe Amani, works with immigrant women who are part of the South Asian, Iranian and the Middle Eastern ethnic communities in Southern California to help women from these communities build peace at home and in society. Amani is also chair of Global Circles at Women’s Intercultural Network, a global women’s organization with grassroot circles in Uganda, Japan and Afghanistan. Amani has also lectured through the Women’s Studies Department and is also on the advisory board of The Women Center at CSU – California State University in Long Beach, California.

Follow Elahe Amani on Twitter: @elahe4peace

The Global Campaign to Stop Stoning: Why Stoning Is Violence Against Women.

stoning

This panel was originally presented at UN CSW57 about the ancient practice of stoning. Here is a statement released by Elahe Amani about the horrific practice:

Today, March 8th 2013, we celebrate International Women’s Day amid the various forms of violence against women—attacks  of regressive forces on women by state and non-state actors from India to Iran, from South Africa to Egypt.  But in spite of this injustice,  more than 6000 women from all over the world have gathered in NY to demand action from the global community at the United Nations Commission on the status of women. It is inspiring to see massive demonstrations all over the world, and to see these demonstrations reach an ever-expanding audience through traditional media and social media.  It is inspiring that more than ever men and women—particularly  younger people all over the world—are  demanding an end to all forms of violence against women. The actions of these individuals prove that the voice of women can never  again be denied in any country at any time.  No turning back!
It is clear that the world still continues on a path of patriarchal domination. Yet this year marks 102 years since the first organized Women’s Day demonstrations were held and marks the 36th anniversary since the United Nations declared March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1977.

It is in this spirit and intention that we have gathered to draw the attention of the global community to one of the most barbaric forms of the death penalty.  While the death penalty itself is being eradicated in many countries around the world, the most brutal form of the death penalty—stoning—is still being practiced.   Death by stoning has been practiced since the establishment of the IRI in my birth country of Iran.

While 90 percent of the countries of the world are not executing and 100 countries have completely abolished it, Iran leads the world in number of executions per capita among nations that continue to apply the death penalty in their domestic jurisdictions.  Many of these executions are conducted in secret and go unreported by official sources.  According to reports from human rights groups that document executions in Iran from both official and unofficial sources,  Iran is second only to China in annual death penalty sentences.   Since 1979, Amnesty International has documented at least 77 cases of stoning in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this figure is likely low due to the lack of proper documentation through 1979-1984.

The first reported case of stoning was shortly after the revolution in July 1980.  Four women were sentenced to death by stoning based on the suspicion of adultery. I recall, when I shared the news with my great aunt (may she rest in Peace), a devoted Moslem and a woman of faith in Kerman, she immediately responded “this is not Islam”.  The fact is that stoning was only used as a form of death penalty by the IRI.  While there are records of various forms of human rights abuse and discrimination of women in the 20th century history of Iran, there are no records of stoning in Iran prior to the July 1980 stoning.  Prior to this event, adultery, nor any other crime for that matter, ever warranted stoning.  This is why we call here and now that stoning should not in our name or in our culture.

Perhaps most harrowing is that the Penal Code of Iran specifies the manner of execution and types of stones that should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning.

Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.” This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict as much pain as possible in a process leading to a slow death.
As mentioned, the cruel practice of stoning started with the four women in Kerman, and since then the majority of those sentenced to death by stoning have been women.  Women suffer disproportionately from such punishment.  One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery.

In 2002, the IRI announced  a moratorium on execution by stoning, and since then officials have routinely denied that stoning sentences continued to be implemented in Iran. For example, In 2005, judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad stated, “in the Islamic Republic, we do not see such punishments being carried out”, further adding that if stoning sentences were passed by lower courts, they were overruled by higher courts and that “no such verdicts have been carried out.”

In spite of this, deaths by stoning continued to be reported.Ja’far Kiani was stoned to death on July 5th, 2007 in a village near Takestan in Qazvin province. He had been convicted of committing adultery with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children and who was also sentenced to death by stoning.  It was the first officially confirmed stoning since the moratorium in 2002, although a woman and a man are known to have been stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. The stoning was carried out despite a stay of execution ordered in his case and in defiance of the 2002 moratorium.

In 2008, for the second time, Iran’s judiciary announced that the punishment of stoning convicts to death has been removed in the draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval.

Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi announced that “In the latest version of the Islamic penal codes bill, which has undergone several modifications, such punishments are not mentioned.”

While the last case of reported stoning of a women was Mahboubeh M on May 7th 2006, even after the second announcement in 2008  of the moratorium on the practice of stoning multiple cases of stoning have been documented.   Dueche velue reported the stoning of a man in Rasht in 2009 and another case of stoning was reported in May 2009.

On March 6th, 2012, the Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in IRI to the general assembly of United Nation reported:
“A number of individuals have been sentenced to death in recent years by stoning despite announcements of a moratorium on stoning as a form of capital punishment by the judiciary. In its report on the subject, Amnesty International stated that at least 15 men and women are currently facing death by stoning sentences for “adultery while married.” The Special Rapporteur joins the Human Rights Committee in expressing its concern about the use of stoning as a method of execution maintains that adultery does not constitute a serious crime by international standards; and strongly urges the Government to enforce its moratorium on stoning. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that stoning has now been omitted from the new Penal Code and hopes all existing cases will be reviewed to ensure that such penalties are not carried out. “

There are several concerns regarding the claim of omission of stoning from the penal code.  As the Special Rapporteur of Human Rights also expressed as a concern, stoning can still be issued at a judge’s discretion in accordance with sharia law or fatwas.  It is also correct that in comparison to the previous penal code, stoning has been removed from the section of the code dealing with penalties for adultery.  Furthermore, the word ‘stoning’ appears twice in articles 172 and 198 of the new penal code, although details about its implementation, such as the appropriate size of stones to be used, wrapping the convicted person in a white shroud (kafan) and burying the male adulterer in the soil up his waist and a female up to her shoulders, are all gone. But the omission of the implementation process is a serious area of concern and, moreover, the fact remains that that sexual relations outside of marriage  is still a crime.

The high-profile case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and other victims of stoning have brought shame on the status of human rights in Iran.
In light of the political fog created by Islamic Conservatives, the current political climate, and the government’ s past history of false moratoriums on stoning, the global community should not be too quick to cheer the changes in Iran’s penal code.  Whether or not the penal code is truly implemented and the practice of stoning eliminated is yet to be seen.

As I shared in the briefing statement at the 20th Session of the Human Rights Council on July 6, 2012 in Geneva, “Honor crimes, FGM and stoning are often described as “tradition” and an unchanging facet of “culture.”  While all these inhuman and cruel practices that violate the rights of women to life, integrity and dignity, have a cultural dimension, they are also shaped by social factors, UN resolutions, government policies, and institutional  discourse can provide an encouraging environment for eradicating such inhuman and cruel practices.

A resolution of the Commission on the Status of Women which bans stoning—one of the cruelest forms of the death penalty and a clear form of torture—will  be a pivotal moment in the fight to bring an end to this practice.

The time to act is now and action is demanded.